Monday, July 18, 2016

Piece of Cake!

“Could you make me a toilet bowl cake with the poo inside?” asked a recent customer. I was silent for a moment. 

“You want Winnie the Pooh in a commode?”

“No no… POO. Faecal matter.”

“Uh… sure. Why not.” It wasn’t the strangest request I’d gotten, after all.  This, I thought to myself, is what I do for the sake of my craft.

Five years ago, I forgot my father’s birthday. Family tradition dictated that I should have put months of pre-planning and thought into making as big a fuss of the event as I possibly could… and I had forgotten. I scurried around the house in a panic, trying to find something… anything, that could be up-cycled into a quick gift that I could pass off as an eco-friendly attempt at ‘it’s the thought that counts’. Nothing.  With dawn creeping up, I had to come up with a plan before Birthday Boy woke. I spontaneously decided I would bake a cake. The problem was, I’d never baked a cake before in my entire life, let alone at 1 am. Google became my best friend as I furtively looked up tutorials.  Being me and therefore being an utter fool, I decided my cake would be a glorious fondant sculpted number.

I was also a determined fool. That night, I taught myself how to bake from scratch (I feel like the Guinness world record committee needs to be informed). By morning, my father descended the stairs to find an odd-looking edible product on the table that was meant to resemble him.  Sri Lankan parents, as you well know, will never admit to the fact that a child’s attempt at culinary art looks like something the cat dragged in. Never mind that the child was well into mid-life crisis age. The questionable looking lump of roasted batter was photographed from all angles and accepted with pride and joy, even displayed later that evening for all and sundry visiting. Uploaded pictures sparked off actual cake orders along with a swollen ego, and thus a monster was born; I became a cake artist. 

Cake pans of all sizes were bought, the fridge stuffed with butter and my pantry turned into a wonderland of glittery, colourful clutter and spilled icing sugar, much to the delight of the residential ant colonies. Early years of obsessively fiddling about with Playdoh had cultivated a knack for sugar art, resulting in clients attempting creative insanity with each order.  What started out as an ego-driven hobby soon turned into a nightmare, with sleepless nights and tears over burned batter. Five years hence I am questioning my existence every time the cat tips over a wedding cake that’s been 3 days in the making. Just as I’m about to throw in the towel, I see everyone and their grandmother starting to bake novelty cakes and my competitive drive kicks in again. Sleep be damned. I will produce a toilet bowl cake with crap in it. 

And this time… I know how to bake.

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